August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC (NOTES ON THE BATTLE OF NASEBY) TO EDWARD FITZGERALD ; 18 September 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420918-TC-TCNBN-01; CL 15: 92-94


Enclosed in TC to EF, 18 Sept.

BATTLE OF NASEBY (14 june 1645): Fairfax's stages (from Sprigge, p. 30 &c).

Wednesday, 11 june (a rainy day), marched from Stony Stratford to WOOTTON (3 miles south of Northampton): bad quarters there; but the Mayor came &c

Thursday, 12 june, from Wootton to (not “Guilsborough 4 miles west of Northampn,” as Sprigge writes, but evidently) KISLINGBURY. The King “lies encamped on Burrough Hill (5 miles off)”; is hunting that day, his horses all at grass. The night again wet; Fairfax, riding about all night on the spy, is stopt by one of his own sentries &c: “at Flower” (near Weedon) he sees the King's forces all astir on the Burrough Hill (about 4 in the morning), “firing their huts,” rapidly making off (northward as it proved). At 6, a council of war; Cromwell, greatly to our joy, has just come in from the Associated Counties (Hunts Cambridgeshire &c): Major Harrison1 with horse is sent towards Daventry to explore; Ireton,2 also with horse, to the northward after the King's main body: “we” (Fairfax's main body) set forward “towards Harborough,” flanking the King, and arrive that night.

Friday, 13 june (not at “Gilling”—is there any such place?—but) at GUILSBOROUGH.* The King's van is now at Harborough, his rear quartered in Naseby,—where Ireton beats them up (probably about half past 9), taking prisoners &c; and so the fugitives rouse the King out of his bed at Lubenham [see Iter Carolinum3 too], who thereupon gallops to Prince Rupert at Harboro' about midnight; calls a council (“resting himself in a chair in a low room,” till Rupert and the rest get on their breeches); and then, after debate [see Clarendon4 &c], determines on turning back to beat the Roundheads. Ireton lies at Naseby (therefore), we at Guilsborough all this night.

Saturday, 14 june; starting at 3 in the morning, we arrive about 5 at NASEBY. King reported to be at Harborough (uncertain whitherward next): behold, “great bodies of his troops are seen coming over the hill from Harboro', towards us; he is for fighting, then! We put our army in order (“large fallow field, northwest of Naseby,” “the brow of the Hill running east and west,” “for something like a mile”): King has sunk out of sight in a hollow, but comes up again nearer us,* and now evidently drawn out for battle: we fall back about 100 paces from the brow of the Hill to hide ourselves and our plans; he rushes on the faster, thinking we run (“much of his ordinance left behind”); the battle joins on the very brow of the Hill,5—about 300 musqueteers of ours are advanced as a forlorn down the steep of the Hill, and retire, firing, as Rupert charges up. Cromwell is on the extreme right (easternmost part of the Hill); he, especially Whalley under him, dashes down before the charge upward (which is led by Langdale)6 can take effect; scatters said charge to the Devil (not without hard cutting),—a good deal impeded by “furzebushes and a coney-warren”: these Royalist horse (Langdale's) fled all behind their own foot, “¼ of a mile from the battle-ground” [i.e. to near the present farm of Dust Hill, or between that and Clipston], and never fought again; so that Cromwell had only to keep them in check, and aid his own main-battle, to the left of him, which he diligently did. Our right wing has thus beaten Langdale: but Rupert, on the contrary, beat back our left [over “Rutput Hill,” “Fanny7 Hill” perhaps?—towards8 Naseby Hamlet, on to our baggage, which stands on the NORTHWEST SIDE of the Hamlet, eastward of said “Rutput” and “Fanny,” but northward of “Leane Leafe Hill,”9—very sober “Hills,” it is like!]; our extreme left was hindered “by pits and ditches” in charging; at any rate it lost the charge, fled, and Rupert now took to attacking the baggage and baggage-guard,—in vain, and with very wasteful delay. For our main-battle too (their horse on the left giving way, and the King's infantry coming up “into sight,” over the brow of the Hill, with one terrible volley, and then with swords and musket-butts) mostly all “fled”; except the officers, who “snatched the colours,” &c fell into the reserves with them &c, and these said reserves now rushing on, and the others rallying to them (especially as Cromwell had beaten), the whole business was ere long retrieved; the King's forces all driven pellmell down the Hill,—towards Dust Hill (or east of the present house), where the King still stood, rallying his horse for another brush (his foot were all gone): but they, seeing Cromwell, with all the horse and the victorious foot, now again ready for a second charge, would not stand it, but broke, and dissipated towards Harboro', Liecester,10 and Infinite Space.— The fight began at 10 o'clock (Clarendon); lasted 3 hours (Cromwell's despatch in Rushworth VI.45); there were some 5,000 prisoners taken— ———how many slain I cannot tell.

* Rushworth VI.46 (Despatch from the Parlt Commissioners)
* at Sibbertoft (Rushworth ubi supra [where above])—